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Complex Issues Explored on Film
Bassam Haddad, director of a film screened Tuesday, answers the audience's questions following the screening. The film explored different perspectives on terrorism. (Photo by Max Chen for the Daily Bruin)

Complex Issues Explored on Film

Documentary unearths different perspectives, definitions of terrorism and counterterrorism

The documentary is intended to confront the association the major media makes between Arabs and terrorism.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Jennifer Gottesfeld, Daily Bruin

Dates and locations of terrorist attacks that occurred in the last 20 years scroll across the screen during a documentary showing at UCLA on Tuesday, in which experts on terrorism attempt to offer their personal definition of the term.

Many of them have a difficult time articulating themselves.

This is a scene from Bassam Haddad's documentary "Arabs and Terrorism," which explores different perspectives on what terrorism is and who can be accused of performing it.

Sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, Haddad screened two sections of the three-part documentary to an audience of about 20 people in Bunche Hall on Tuesday. The screening was followed by a discussion about the film.

Haddad, an assistant professor at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, said his goal in making the documentary was to encourage people to look at terrorism from different points of view, especially ones he believes have been overlooked by the mainstream media.

"I want to reconsider the question of terrorism and counterterrorism, and I want to show that it is a far more complex topic than it is made out to be in the mainstream media," Haddad said.

Haddad filmed in 11 different countries, including the United States, Lebanon, Syria, Spain, England and Israel in order to get a variety of viewpoints about the topic, he said. Haddad interviewed hundreds of individuals – both scholars and people on the street – about terrorism and its perceived association with Arabs.

The documentary features such figures as Jeane Kirkpatrick, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and Zeev Boim, Israel's deputy defense minister.

"The documentary is intended to confront the association the major media makes between Arabs and terrorism," Haddad said.

The documentary was broken up into three sections. The first covered the different definitions of terrorism given by the people interviewed. The second covered the topic of state terrorism, and the third section, which was not shown but discussed later in the event, covered the differences between terrorism and resistance.

While there was a heated discussion about the flaws in the documentary, many of the people in the audience said they appreciated the different points of view addressed in the movie and said they were helpful in better understanding the topic of terrorism.

"I'm studying the Islam democratization process in the Middle East," said Serida Catalano, a visiting graduate student from the University of Milan. "This documentary has much to do with my thesis and opening up new perspectives on the definition of terrorism."

Haddad said he acted as a middle man for part of the film, using the documentary as a conversation between experts in different parts of the world. He showed different experts whom he interviewed video of interviews he had conducted previously, and asked them to respond to what others said.

He then recorded their responses, brought them back to the first person interviewed, and asked them to respond in return.

Haddad also incorporated written quotes, news clips, still imagery, audio blurbs and interviews into the film and would play or show one on top of the other, making the film fast-paced but sometimes cluttering the screen.

"I think overall it did project some points of view from both sides," said Ibrahim Al-Shyoukh, a graduate student in mechanical engineering. "With these movies we should be looking at whatever is said and searching for the truths in it."

Center for Near Eastern Studies